By Briana Thomas, Special to the AFRO
On Oct. 14, the Northwest, D.C. nonprofit, Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC), will install a new Executive Director.
New Jersey-native Kimberly Driggins has spent two decades in D.C. working in the field of housing and community development. After working as an urban planner in Detroit for the past three years she said she is excited to return to D.C. to serve as WHC’s new Executive Director.
“This is a dream position for me to be working in the affordable workforce housing space and to head this innovative entity,” Driggins said in an Aug.14 news release. “I am excited to return to Washington, D.C. and continue the work of growing this city and the region that I was a part of for over fifteen years.”
WHC is an independent nonprofit organization that offers affordable housing for the District’s workforce. The group was conceived in 2015, but recently launched in April of this year.
Driggins told the AFRO that people who work in D.C. often have to live much further than where they work within in the city because of high rents and population growth.
“There is an affordability issue in the city and in the region, and its one of the- I think- top three issues in the region. So this organization, WHC, that we’re looking at preserving affordable housing for the workforce is extremely important,” she said.
According to data from WHC, rents in D.C. are rising much faster than residential income, making housing an unsustainable burden for D.C. laborers. From 2010-2016 the rent median rose about seven percent, while the income median rose three percent.
While higher income households are able to manage the expenses of working and living in D.C., the data shows that the surge in high income renters results in an increase of financial pressure on low to middle income households.
Driggins explained that, “In areas that have access to transit, and have access to healthy grocery stores, and childcare, those areas are increasingly under pressure around affordability and this initiative, this entity, is really geared toward making sure that communities stay mixed-income, and people are able to remain where they’ve been.”
To help solve the issue of workforce displacement Driggins said WHC is planning to purchase property in the Metropolitan area in order to provide affordable units for the labor force.
Driggins, who formerly worked as the Associate Director of Citywide Planning for the D.C. Government from 2008-2015, said she is now being tasked with the social impact portion of the WHC’s model.
“Its not just about real estate acquisition. Its also about a social impact strategy…with the folks that we’re providing housing for, not just the unit of housing, but what are the services and needs of the residents to make sure that they thrive in place,” she said.
Driggins said residents thrive with services and amenities such as childcare, access to parks and other things that support livability.
The new Executive Director specializes in urban planning and said she has deep connections in the District. In the past she worked on affordability projects in Anacostia, Congress Heights, H Street and Deanwood.
“I’ve worked with the community a lot so people see me and they come up to me, let me know how they’re doing or a issue that they might be having,” she told the AFRO. “I don’t even think some people realize that I haven’t been in the city for four years, I mean some people think that I’ve never left so its good.”